The Canadian Human Rights Act

Read the act

Passed in 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act was the Canadian government’s formal recognition of “The existence of fundamental human rights and freedoms, including the right of every individual to participate in society without... discrimination,” which, the Justice Minister Ron Basford asserted was “a basic and underlying principle which has long been recognized by the Parliament and Government of Canada.”  (

The Canadian Human Rights Act governs federally regulated employers and service providers and created the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which continues to address “discriminatory practices” based on the following grounds which are prohibited by the Act: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, a conviction for which you have been granted a pardon.

According to the Act, discriminatory practices include:

Denying someone goods, services, facilities, or accommodation (Section 5).

Refusing to employ or continue to employ someone or treating them unfairly in the workplace (Section 7).

Following policies or practices that deprive people of employment opportunities (Section 10).

Paying men and women differently when they are doing work of the same value (Section 11).

Communicating hate messages on the telephone or through the Internet (Section 13).

Harassing someone (Section 14).

Retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint with the Commission or someone who has filed a complaint for them (Section 14.1).

If you feel that you have been discriminated against in one of these ways, based on one of the grounds covered in the Act and this discrimination has had a negative effect on you, you may file a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.  Before you do so, you need to be sure that you have to tried all other reasonable avenues for resolving the problem but you only have one year from the time the incident occurred in order to file a complaint.  For more information on the complaint process, please see:

Aside from investigating and reviewing complaints, the Commission also educates federally regulated organizations about respecting human rights and promotes workplace equity for women, Aboriginal Peoples, people with a disability and visible minorities.

The Act and Aboriginal People: recent changes to the CHRA have changes the way the Act applies to Aboriginal peoples and issues.  They can now file a complaint if the Indian Act results in discrimination, they can also file complaints against First Nations governments or federally regulated Aboriginal organizations.

Adapted from “Your Guide to Understanding the Canadian Human Rights Act”